The earliest known existing hotel called Bristol is thought to be the Bristol in Rome, now the Hotel Bernini Bristol.It opened its doors in 1874 and claims to be named after the 4th Earl of Bristol, who spent time in Rome acquiring artworks for his house at Ickworth in Suffolk. It was an instant success, attracting nobility and royalty.
It has been suggested that the novelist Jane Austen stayed at a Hotel Bristol in Cork Street, Mayfair, London, in 1796. From here she wrote to her sister of her alarm at arriving in the capital:
Cork Street, Tuesday morn [August 23]My dear Cassandra
Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted...
Mayfair at this time catered for passengers from the West Country, particularly Bristol and Bath, many of whom stayed in lodging houses, male preserves that resembled sporting clubs. Despite the speculation, there was no hotel called Bristol in London until one opened on the corner of Cork Street and Burlington Gardens in 1874 – the same year as the Bristol in Rome. It is likely Jane Austen was lodging with a relative.
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